Let CPF monies, share of HDB flats be covered by a will

The Ministry of Law and Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board stated that the CPF Act does not recognise wills, and that the distribution of CPF monies must be by official nomination ("CPF monies not covered by a will"; Wednesday).

However, the rationale for this policy was not explained. Elderly and illiterate CPF members may not understand or know the procedures on the distribution of CPF monies upon their death.

The authorities should review the CPF Act and streamline it so that CPF monies can be part of the deceased's estate and covered by his will. This is to make it less of a hassle for his beneficiaries; after all, a will is a legal document.

There is a similar conundrum with HDB flats. If the flat was purchased under joint tenancy, the share of the flat belonging to the dead man automatically goes to the other joint tenants, regardless of whether the dead man left a will.

If the flat was purchased under tenancy-in-common, the dead man's share of the flat will be distributed according to his will or intestacy laws.

What are the reasons behind these different policies?

Tenants can change their flat ownership from joint tenancy to tenancy-in-common if all parties agree. But some owners may not wish to alert the other co-owners on the change, to avoid animosity.

To provide more flexibility to flat owners on how they want their assets distributed, the HDB should standardise ownership of flats to just tenancy-in-common agreements.

Owners can then specify in their will how their share of the flat will be distributed, say, after the death of the other co-owner or if the surviving co-owner sells the flat.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'Let CPF monies, share of HDB flats be covered by a will'. Print Edition | Subscribe